When Katie L. Morris drove her 1968 Ford into a Northeast service station for repairs last March, she was told that her work would take less than a week and cost no more than $300.
Eight weeks later, the car was returned to her, along with a bill for $628.78.
Yesterday, Morris won a refund from the station owner in the first case decided by the District's new administrative law judge for consumer complaints, Harriet R. Taylor.
Appointed to that position to decide cases brought by the D.C. Office of Consumer Protection, Taylor ordered Walter R. Abney to refund Morris $298.78 of the bill charged by his Abney's Amoco station at 4251 Minnesota Ave. NE.
The judge rules that Abney violated six provisions of the city's consumer goods repair regulations, including failing to give a written estimate of costs, identify repair workers and subcontractors, specify parts replaced and estimate the time for repairs. In addition, Taylor said, he did not offer to return the old parts or give Morris a telephone number.
"I was incapacitated. I had no transportation," Morris, a retired secretary in the Air Force Surgeon General's Office, said yesterday. "He (Abney) refused to give me my car until I signed for the bill."
She had taken the car to Abney to replace a leaking gasoline tank, get an oil and filter change and have a general tune up, Morris said.
"Everytime I would call, something else was wrong," she said. "It got to the point that he wouldn't even talk to me."
When the work was completed, she "had to sign the bill before I could walk out of there with my car," she said. "I had relied on neighbours and friends to drive me for so long."
After paying the bill, Morris said she contacted Amoco Company officials without getting satisfaction before complaining to the Consumer Protection Office.
Reached yesterday, Abney said, "I accept the ruling, I wouldn't try to appeal it on the advice of my lawyer, but (the Consumer Protection Office) should take into consideration that customers want more work done at the same cost as the original estimate."
Morris' $293.78 refund was based on the amount she paid over $330 - that is, the original $300 estimate plus 10 per cent leeway allowed under city regulations.
Morris said she has already received the $298.78 from Abney.